At Sunday’s Academy Awards, First Lady Michelle Obama announced (from the White House) Ben Affleck’s Argo as winner of the “Best Picture” award. Her appearance, coupled with the choice for the winning film, has provoked some discussion. Iranian news sources are wondering if her presence embodied a sort of political propaganda. Others have questioned whether political figures have any place at the Oscars at all.
Argo is about the escape of American Embassy staff from Tehran during the hostage crisis. But it’s been argued that the film exaggerated the violence during the storming of the compound, which obviously sheds negative light on the Iranian administration of the time. The Global Post reported Monday that Iran has dismissed awarding an Oscar to the film “Argo” as an “advertisement for the CIA” and a Zionist plot to misrepresent an event arising from the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran’s Fars News has decried Argo as an anti-Iran film, holding that Warner Brothers is a Zionist company.
This claim makes the First Lady’s involvement slightly controversial. Is the White House advocating a potentially Anti-Iran film? Fars News said Obama’s presence politicized the award, which has angered some film critics who feel that politics, even if the theme of a film, should be kept out of the Academy Awards, which determine the level of artistic success in a film more than a film’s actual political message.
Said one conservative journalist, according to Fox News: “Forget separation of church and state — we need a separation of Hollywood and state.”
It’s true that Michelle Obama has ingratiated herself with pop culture and with American’s younger generation. And it could have been coincidental that many of the films up for Best Picture this year were nationalistic in theme or plotline. Moreover, the First Lady is not the first White House-based politician to make an appearance at the Oscars — former First Lady Laura Bush participated in 2002, and U.S. President Ronald Reagan once appeared in a taped greeting. But in case her presence did present a politicized message that could get in the way of the Awards’ purpose, she should have avoided this controversial endorsement.